Can an Indoor Video Game Simulator Make You a Better Skier? We Put It to the Test…

Gregg Frantz | | Industry NewsIndustry News

The ski season is over for much of the country, and many of us are planning our summer activities before we hit the slopes next season. Some of us may hit the links, trails, or do anything that gets us out of the house to enjoy the outdoors and nature. For those who still want to hit the slopes, BigSnow in New Jersey is open year around. However, that may not be an option for someone living far away. Another option is to keep your focus on skiing or riding throughout the summer, depending on your location.

4 Season Alpine is the first indoor skiing and snowboarding training school in PA and NJ that provides SkyTechSport VR Technology. SkyTechSport was founded in 2005 in Munich, Germany, by 4-former-collegiate and semi-pro skiers from Europe. This technology is endorsed by the US Olympic Ski and Snowboard Team, PSIA, and AASI coaches and is also utilized by many other professional teams worldwide. It is an excellent tool for individuals to sharpen their skills and stay in ski shape, and it also provides a safe environment for beginners to learn.

I had the opportunity to check out the simulator at 4 Season Alpine, located in Doylestown, PA, about an hour outside of Philadelphia. I must admit that I was initially hesitant about the concept of a simulator replicating the true feeling of skiing. After all, who would not want to check out a ski simulator the US Ski and Snowboard team uses? However, once I booted up and got locked on to the simulator, it became obvious to me what a powerful training tool the simulator was.

Andrey Yunusov is the founder and head coach at 4 Season Alpine, and as soon as I first met him, you could easily recognize his credibility and passion for the sport. Andrey has 39 years of skiing experience and is certified in PSIA Alpine L1, Alpine Teaching L2, Children Specialist 1 Instructor, CPR/AED, and First Aid certified. He was born in Tashkent, the Capital of Uzbekistan, and has a doctorate in general medicine, women’s health, and oncology. He is a clinical research professional and Oversight Director in a global Clinical Research Organization.

Andrey still works as an Oversight Director for Clinical Research, but his love and passion for skiing and the mountains has opened the doors to other adventures. 4 Season Alpine is open year-round, and Andrey told me that his busy season is during the winter months when many students who race want to hit the simulator to improve their skills off the mountain. The simulator is used by children, adults, and professionals who may be there to train for races or just looking to sharpen their skills off the mountain.

So, how does it work, and how does someone set up a class for checking out this simulator that the US Ski and Snowboard Team uses? The simulator is a very advanced technology, and I will try to keep it as simple as possible. I am a skier and therefore took the skiing class; however, the simulator can also be set up for snowboarding. The simulator is outfitted with multiple sensors which track the position of your skis on the slope, edging angles, speed, and much more. The simulator knows what you do every second you are on the machine.

The simulator has two ski bindings, precisely like any other pair mounted onto the rail system, which the skier uses to slide back and forth on the machine. There is a hand rail directly in front of the skier for them to use in case the student loses their balance, and there is also safety netting on the skier’s far right and left to prevent them from injury. On the wall in front of the machine is three large flat screens that display images of the slopes as the student skis down the course. A person can bring a pair of boots or rent them for $5 at the store for their lesson.

The SkyTechSport ski simulator uses cutting-edge technology, making it so realistic for skiing that it was a little tricky for me to comprehend. As I stated earlier, I was skeptical of the simulator being able to replicate the true feeling of skiing. I served in the US military and have had a lot of experience with simulators throughout my career. I hoped SkyTechSport had done a great job making the simulator as believable as possible. I wanted to determine if the simulator gave the student the same feeling, mechanics, and motions that a skier would feel on the mountain. After a few minutes on the simulator, I realized that the engineers who developed the simulator had done a fantastic job.

The simulator provided the sensation of being on skis while carving down the mountain. I am a downhill skier, and I love making good turns, which I was looking forward to doing on the simulator. While I was on the machine, I could feel my edges as I made my turns and the G-Forces that were being put on my body simultaneously. The virtual screen reacted directly to all my movements, and there was no lag time in the motion of my skis when I was making my turns.

There are many locations around the world where a person can find a SkyTechSport ski simulator that are open to the public, with ten of them being in the United States. A person can reserve a class online via their website or call them for additional questions. 4 Season Alpine offers students several different options when choosing their training plan. They also offer a three-month membership program which may be better suited for the serious skier or competitive racer. Discounts are also offered to ski and snowboard coaches, ski professionals, ski patrol members, and parents of students who are ski racers.

Having a great piece of training equipment is excellent. However, having a coach to teach you during your class is also essential. The simulator might look like a giant video game with great graphics; however, a simple tech person to put you on and off the machine would not work in this case. A professional ski or snowboard coach is required for this unique setup, and I can verify that Andrey knows his stuff! Andrey’s knowledge of ski training proved to be a considerable addition to my visit to his shop.  He quickly assessed my technique and form and provided immediate feedback on anything I did.

There are proponents of utilizing a ski simulator that some old-school instructors or skeptics may not see the value in. The first thing is always safety when participating in any sport, and the SkyTechSport ski simulator provides students with a very safe way to learn to ski or ride. While it is possible to hurt yourself on the simulator, it provides a student with a safe platform to learn without the dangers associated with the mountain. The simulator is also located indoors, which allows students to train year around without having to consider any inclement weather.

One proponent that I found very valuable to the overall teaching environment at 4 Season Alpine was the efficiency and the quality of training. My training session was 60 minutes long, and at first, that might sound like a short training period. However, I made 972 turns during that time, equivalent to about 5-6 hours on an east coast mountain and approximately 3 hours on the west coast mountain. There are also no lift lines or waiting to take the lift back up the mountain while training. Therefore, the time spent on the simulator is very efficient, and having a coach standing directly before you and giving instructions proved to be a huge selling point to me. With each instruction Andrey gave me, I could immediately change my form or technique. I could also see myself in the mirrors, which assisted me in watching my form.

Taryn Kotsur training at 4 Season Alpine / Photo Credit: 4 Season Alpine

The facility also had other exercise equipment geared towards skiing and snowboarding, focusing on balance. During group sessions, students rotate through the simulator and conduct their balance drills in the facility throughout their class. There were so many different types of balance equipment and tools at the studio it would be hard for a student not to be challenged.

Another proponent of the simulator is that it allows athletes who have sustained injuries to do their rehab in a safe environment. The US Ski and Snowboard team utilizes the simulator to rehab their athletes in a situation where they do not have to worry about falling and re-injuring themselves. The professionals at 4 Season Alpine provide a step-by-step process for post-injury reconditioning that simulates natural compensatory mechanisms before you get back on the snow.

The ski simulator provides a platform that is also great for individuals looking to work out in a safe and fun way. While some would believe the simulator is only geared toward skiers and snowboarders, it also provides people with a great alternative to conventional workouts. The simulator is an excellent workout for the abs, core, and calf muscles and includes cardio. I was on the machine for an hour, and sometimes I stopped to catch my breath or allow my legs to rest for a minute.

4 Season Alpine makes the whole experience worthwhile and convenient for the students while training at their facility. Their professional staff can answer any beginner student’s question and are also prepared to train advanced skiers and racers. Students have the unique opportunity to ski multiple courses worldwide on the simulator ranging from Olympic venues in Switzerland, Austria, and Beaver Creek, CO.

The opportunity to train off the mountain and during inclement weather is valuable to any racer. The staff at 4 Season Alpine is very proud of their students and racers who train at their facility, and the program’s success speaks for itself. In April, racers from Bear Creek Mountain Team, who train at 4 Season Alpine took fourth place out of 64 other teams at the Junior Silver NASTAR National Championships, placing only behind Snowmass, Aspen, and Deer Valley.

I highly recommend that any skier or rider passionate about the sport check out the SkyTechSport ski simulator at 4 Season Alpine. It is an excellent tool for anyone who wants to maintain or sharpen their skills and provides a safe and fun atmosphere for everyone! My overall experience at the facility and with the simulator was top-notch, and I would return for more off-mountain training.

Nikita Yunusov qualified for Nastar Nationals platinum division finals with a US team member / Photo Credit: 4 Season Alpine.

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2 thoughts on “Can an Indoor Video Game Simulator Make You a Better Skier? We Put It to the Test…

  1. This has come a long way from when Don Henderson put his skiers in a wind tunnel

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